CANBERRA, AAP – The odds are stacked against Uber drivers in Australia with poor working conditions and no protections against aggressive riders, a Senate inquiry has heard.
Two Uber drivers said the company deactivated their accounts for days at a time with no compensation after false complaints were made against them.
During the pandemic, passengers who did not want to wear masks in the car, or were angry about caps of three passengers per car, were able to make complaints with no review mechanisms.
Lorna Berry from Melbourne and a second anonymous driver from Sydney told the inquiry into insecure work the company had complete power over their ability to work.
Once deactivated, the drivers were not even able to contact a staff member through the app.
“They take the (word) of the rider as gospel in every situation,” the anonymous driver told the hearing on Thursday.
“If I want to go out and get 10 people deactivated today, I could do it.”
He said his experience with mask mandates was “horrendous” to the point he did not want to work.
Ms Berry said a group of young women were angry they were not able to fit four people in the car due to the new rules and, despite having a high rating, her account was deactivated 24-hours later after a complaint was made.
She said no evidence was provided but she was still suspended for four to five days with no compensation.
Both drivers’ ratings plummeted when health mandates came into place.
“Drivers need a voice, we need a right of reply. We are professional people trying to support our families,” Ms Berry said.
“We need to be able to have job security and go out and be safe and know the people controlling the flow of work have our back.”
Ms Berry earned around $1000 a week from seven days of work, sometimes up to 12 hours a day, and costs could be in excess of half of this income.
Uber general manager Dominic Taylor said the average wage was $32 an hour before driver costs.
Uber Eats general manager Matthew Denman said the company provided a fair wage and when only trip times were measured over a two week period, drivers earned above minimum wage after costs.
Mr Denman said the company was looking at a minimum rate per trip for drivers but rejected introducing a minimum wage across the entire time a driver used the app.
“We do not believe it is accurate to suggest drivers on our platform are consistently earning below minimum wage,” he said.
Union representatives used the inquiry’s hearings on Wednesday and Thursday to take aim at the government’s industrial law reform.
The government defined a casual worker in the Fair Work Act but allowed businesses to not offer permanent work “on reasonable grounds” despite a legislative requirement to do so after 12 months.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil said the loophole was so large it rendered the protections for casuals “practically useless”.